Do you believe social casino games are top-grossing categories in mobile gaming?
Social gaming has become a highly lucrative sector in online gaming. Eilers Research reckons that the social casino market’s going to grow from US$ 2.7 billion in 2014 to US$ 3.3 billion by the end of this year. Last year we also saw major gaming firms getting into social – with horse-racing giant Churchill Downs acquiring social casino studio Big Fish Games for an incredible US$ 885 million in November. As with real-money iGaming, mobile’s become the dominant platform for social casino brands. In Q2 of 2014, revenue for social casino via iOS and Android crossed the 50% threshold. The year before, they’d yet to hit 40%. Aside from the issue of mobile penetration, social gaming’s success has been partly caused by regulatory restrictions on real-money online casinos in major markets. In the US, where real-money iGaming’s restricted to just three states, social casino is unsurprisingly hugely popular. SuperData Research estimate that there are over 35.4 million social casino players in the States – and that number’s likely to continue rising.
Is social casino a creative solution for VLT markets?
Yes, social casino brands are definitely a creative option for expanding and diversifying operators’ product offerings – and the VLT market is no exception. I feel that digital innovation in all industries is critical for growth, and the same is true for VLT. Social casino brands allow operators to maintain their relationships with customers and engage with them online. They’re also key to keeping a brand relevant and acquiring players from a younger demographic.
Who is the target audience? Is this kind of gaming only attractive to younger generations?
I think it really depends on the game. I read some data from Macquarie Research recently which said that the average age of a social casino player is 38 and social or free-play poker is as young as 27. By comparison, a Harrah’s study a while back said that the average age of their land-based casinos customers was 46. So, yes, social players tend to be younger, but as you can see in the difference between social casino and poker, it really depends on the game. Social slots and bingo, for example, tend to attract an older demographic and more women than social table games like poker, blackjack and roulette.
What is the future of Social Gaming?
Social Gaming’s revenue is only going to continue to rise over the next few years. You’re seeing brands like Big Fish and Slotomania moving up the charts in Apple’s App Store. Big Fish’s acquisition by Churchill Downs last year was also interesting to me. You’re going to see more M&A like that going forward – major real-money iGaming operators diversifying their offering by buying social casino brands and studios – not only for their innovative products, but also because they come with a large customer following.
In which way is Social Gaming a step towards real-money online gambling?
Converting social players into real-money players is a hugely important issue for all operators. It’s particularly vital for operators in the US market, where social casino brands are being used by land-based casinos and iGaming operators as a bridging strategy in preparation for the regulation of real-money online casino and poker in states like Pennsylvania and beyond; operators are still experimenting. However, iGaming researcher Jason Prasad has presented strong evidence that a high proportion of social players who’ve never played a real-money brand can be converted when the right marketing strategy is implemented.